COMBINES 3 Memories, Dreams, & Other Abstractions


Since 1960 Perry Botkin has composed and arranged for recordings, television and films. He won a Grammy for Nadia's Theme (The Young and the Restless) and an Oscar nomination for Bless the Beasts and Children. His current focus is on experimental electronic music.


"But where are the compositions?" French composer Olivier Messiaen once asked when commenting on the vogue for electronic music.

With the release of Combines 3, Perry Botkin answers Messiaen's question with another brilliant collection of electronic compositions. As in his two earlier Combines, Botkin continues to employ any device -musical or linguistic, analog or digital - that suits his musical fancy. (The term 'combines' derives from painter Robert Rauschenberg's mixture of photomontage and silkscreen techniques)

Utilizing this technique, Botkin has fashioned a highly original musical language - an eclectic style that distinguishes his work from other modernist composers. (If given a blindfold test, I feel certain I could pinpoint his music in an instant.)

This is particularly true of Combines 3. Botkin's new CD features numerous autobiographical references touching on the composer's youth, his aspirations, conflicts, memories, dream states, fantasies, and the like. The autobiographical references are essentially abstract - not unlike James Joyce's stream-of-consciousness technique or William Burrough's cut-ups.

Botkin is a composer relatively free of academic influences. He is, above all, a musician. This puts him somewhat at odds with the scientific approach, i.e., the lab composers obsessed with the physics of musical sound, mathematical models and electroacoustic experiments, which, in my view, are often mistaken for fully-formed musical compositions.

To be sure, Botkin is no musical traditionalist. He remains firmly in the modernist camp. Still, there is something of the romantic in him. By romantic I mean that he gives vent to the uncontrolled play of the creative imagination including the highly idiosyncratic…
And even the fantastic.

His musical style? One could label it dramatic. Or theatrical. Perhaps even hyper-theatrical.

His titles in Combine 3 are, as always, revealing:

1. Fists 8:07
2. Orpheus Descending 9:13
3. Mr. Jenkins' Morning Ritual 9:09
4. Confused Youth 8:19
5. Eurydice Arising 9:00
6. What's That Supposed To Mean? 8:24
7. Stravinsky Dream 8:09

Today, musical composition is at the crossroads. Cultivated audiences (not merely the unwashed) appear to have lost the ability to distinguish between pop and classical music. There is a belief - false, I believe - that the two genres have merged.

In fact, pop continues to rule (because it makes money) and the 'serious' contemporary composer remains a lonely figure, misunderstood and (except for a small band of chamber-music devotees) largely unheard.

There is, however, something new under the sun. Thanks to digitalization and high-tech home studios, a new breed of composer is arising. Loaded with vitality and creativity.

We are starting to hear exciting new musical works - often performed by the composers themselves, available on CD's directly from the composers, and soon, no doubt, downloadable via the internet.

Among the most innovative of this new breed of composers is the gifted, incredibly imaginative - Perry Botkin.

James Harbert

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